Published Date: 01.12.2006
The Police Ombudsman's Office enjoys almost equal levels of support from both Protestants and Catholics, with over 80% from both communities believing it is helping to improve policing, according to the findings of an independent survey.
More than four out of five people from both communities also believed that police officers and complainants would be treated fairly by the Police Ombudsman's Office.
Over 1,100 people took part in the survey, which is conducted annually by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. This year's results show a marked increase in support for the Police Ombudsman's Office among the Protestant community compared to previous years. 83% of Protestant respondents now believe the Police Ombudsman helps the police to do a good job, compared to just 65% in 2002. And 78% now believe the Office is impartial, up from just 51% four years ago.
Catholic confidence in the Office also remains high, with 84% of Catholics believing that the Office helps police do a good job, and 73% believing the Office is impartial (the latter figure is down from a high of 84% two years ago). Other results also show very little difference in perceptions of the Office between the two communities. 84% of all respondents (81% of Catholics and 86% of Protestants) believed they would be treated fairly by the Police Ombudsman's Office if they made a complaint about the police, while 89% (86% of Protestants and 92% of Catholics) believed police officers would be treated fairly.
84% of all respondents had heard of the Office and a similar number recognised that it is independent of the police. People were also asked if they had ever experienced unacceptable behaviour from a police officer;- 85% had not, 9% had on one or two occasions, and 4% said they had experienced it more frequently. 16% of Catholics and 14% of Protestants said they had experienced unacceptable behaviour from a police officer - most commonly that an officer had been disrespectful or impolite.
Police Ombudsman Mrs Nuala O'Loan said: 'I'm pleased that, according to these findings, the Police Ombudsman's Office is providing a service which the majority of people in Northern Ireland recognise as independent, impartial and fair to both members of the public and police officers.
Meanwhile, a survey of police officers investigated by the Police Ombudsman's Office, has indicated that 85% believe they have been treated fairly by the Office.
Almost 400 officers investigated by the Police Ombudsman responded to a survey distributed by the Office during the 12-month period up to October this year. 98% of officers who took part in the survey said Police Ombudsman investigators had been polite, 95% thought they had acted professionally, 91% thought they were impartial and 90% said they had been knowledgeable. 73% were satisfied or very satisfied with the way they had been treated by the office, compared to 11% who expressed dissatisfaction.